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Hamas leader wants Palestinian army

Khalid Mishaal, the political leader of Hamas, has suggested that the Islamic group could create a Palestinian army that would include its militant wing.

Last Modified: 29 Jan 2006 03:10 GMT
The Israelis have tried twice to assassinate Khalid Mishaal

Khalid Mishaal, the political leader of Hamas, has suggested that the Islamic group could create a Palestinian army that would include its militant wing.

Israeli officials on Saturday condemned the plan, demanding that Hamas should renounce violence. Palestinian security officers, including loyalists from the Fatah party that Hamas defeated at the polls, said they would never submit to Hamas control.

Jibril Rajub, a former Palestinian minister, said: "Hamas has no power to meddle with the security forces."

But Mishaal reiterated that Hamas would not recognise Israel and indicated that attacks on Israeli civilians would continue as long as Israel continued to target Palestinian civilians.

"As long as we are under occupation then resistance is our right," he said.

Merger

"We are ready to unify the weapons of Palestinian factions, with Palestinian consensus, and form an army like any independent state"

Khalid Mishaal, Hamas

Speaking from his base in Damascus, Syria, where Mishaal has been in exile, he said his group would not disarm and said Hamas's military wing, estimated at nearly 5000 gunmen in Gaza alone, could be merged into a Palestinian army.

"We are ready to unify the weapons of Palestinian factions, with Palestinian consensus, and form an army like any independent state," he said.

Israeli officials demanded that Hamas should look for peaceful solutions to the conflict.

Mark Regev, the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, said: "If Hamas wants to be considered a partner in peace, it's very clear what it has to do. It has to renounce terrorism, disarm, accept Israel's right to exist and support political solutions to issues rather than pursuing violent jihad."

Holding fire?

At his press conference, Mishaal said Hamas would abide by existing agreements with the country "as long as it is in the interest of our people", but did not say which agreements he was referring to.

Israel and the Palestinians have a host of agreements dealing with everything from administration to security co-operation.

Israeli officials have said repeatedly they will not deal with Hamas, and Shaul Mofaz, the defence minister, said Israel would not rule out targeted killings against the group.

Israeli airstrikes in 2004 killed Shaikh Ahmad Yassin, the founder of Hamas, and his successor, Abd al-Aziz al-Rantisi, a month later.

Deadly warning

Mofaz said on Israel's Channel 2 television: "Whoever stands at the head of a terror organisation and continues to carry out terror attacks against Israel is not immune."

Shaul Mofaz, the Israeli defence
minister, may target Hamas again

Many in the 58,000-member Palestinian security force rejected the idea of Hamas control.

Ala Husni, the Gaza police chief, said: "The security institution is a red line. We will not allow anyone to tamper with it. It will remain a powerful and impartial arm that carries out the decisions of the presidency [Abbas] and that stops any in-fighting or civil war."

Dozens of armed police officers briefly stormed the parliament building in Gaza City on Saturday, demanding that the security forces should remain in Fatah's hands. They called for Hamas members who have killed police in recent months to be brought to justice.

Ramzi Ubaidi, a leader of the Fatah-allied al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, told the crowd: "We'll show them hell as an opposition, and we will turn the Palestinian Authority security forces into armed militia led by al-Aqsa."

Source:
Agencies
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